Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures
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Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures

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3.19 of 5 stars 3.19  ·  rating details  ·  2,269 ratings  ·  456 reviews
The enchanting story of a midwestern girl who escapes a family tragedy and is remade as a movie star during Hollywood’s golden age.

In 1920, Elsa Emerson, the youngest and blondest of three sisters, is born in idyllic Door County, Wisconsin. Her family owns the Cherry County Playhouse, and more than anything, Elsa relishes appearing onstage, where she soaks up the approval...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Riverhead Hardcover
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I made the mistake of thinking Laura Lamont was some lesser-known film star with whom I wasn't familiar. Turns out she came straight from Emma Straub's imagination. The author did a lot of research about the golden age of Hollywood, and she put great care into the development of her story. Sorry to say, without any actual Hollywood touchstones, there's not enough stardust to keep it interesting.

The novel is rather bland and lacks the tang of reality. Even the film studios, execs, and names of o...more
Candace Cobb
I had such great hopes for this book. I heard Emma Straub on NPR talking about the book, realized she was Peter Straub's daughter (who doesn't love Peter Straub??), and I liked the subject matter. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations.

The book is told soley through the point of view of the main character, Laura Lamont, who is one of the most vapid characters ever written. Life rolls over her, and she just let's it happen, over and over again. She is completely inactive. The only mo...more
oriana
This is all Donna Tartt's fault.

As with The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, I wish I wish I wish I'd read this book before I read The Goldfinch. Seriously you guys, that fucking book is so good that it makes everything else seem like bullshit.

I mean, I was excited about this book for a long time! Emma Straub is kind of a big deal in the Brooklyn lit scene. She is universally known for being really nice and also very talented, and I don't recall hearing anything bad about this book at all. I definit...more
Edan
I can't really judge this novel objectively as the author is a dear friend of mine. We were in our nonfiction workshop at Oberlin together! I attended her Russian Nightclub house party! We've double-dated! Emma and I got reacquainted a few years ago, after college, and found we had much in common, particularly that were both (still) writers and lovers of books. I have been SO excited to read her debut novel! It didn't disappoint.

I love the prose here: it's as milky and winsome as the book's name...more
Charlie
There is a definite possibility that I won't finish this book. The writing style isn't bad but the characters are bland and boring. It's like a dish cooked with no spices, not even a dash of salt & pepper. The main character, Laura (aka Elsa) has no definition. She is just there. I can imagine that if I could hear her voice it would be filled with sighs, monotone, languid. Nothing seems to get a spark or a reaction out of her. She just accepts whatever takes place, good or bad. Is she insecu...more
Dan
Originally published in Time Out New York

Emma Straub’s recent short fiction collection, Other People We Married, was well received and praised by literary luminaries from Dan Chaon to Lorrie Moore. So it follows that the Brooklyn bookseller’s debut novel would be highly anticipated.

Unfortunately, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures fails to meet the author’s lofty ambitions. Blond, ordinary theater brat Elsa Emerson leaves picturesque Door County, Wisconsin, and transforms into alluring Golden Age H...more
Erica
There's always a nervousness that accompanies reading a book written by someone you know. I get a minor version of this quite often when I sit down to read a book by an author I'm working with, but it's infinitely worse when it's a friend. What if you don't like it? How will you ever talk to that person again if their writing sucks?

Luckily, my feelings about Laura Lamont are the complete and total opposite. I LOVED this book, the story of a Hollywood actress from her childhood in 1930s Wisconsin...more
Patrick Brown
I had a dream a few nights ago that I was living in Hollywood. I don't mean to say that I'd moved back to that horrible, horrible apartment I lived in for years in the early 2000s, but rather that I was in the entertainment industry. More specifically, everyone I knew--from my friends, to my sister, to one of my co-workers--had been cast in a movie. It was a big musical, the kind they don't make anymore, really, and it was all anybody could talk about. One day, I rode to work with my sister and...more
Brenda
I imagine that the golden age of Hollywood would give a writer a wealth of stunning things to write about. After all, some of the star's actual lives were more salacious than the ones being acted on on the screen. Did Emma Straub take this and run with it? Absolutely not.

Straub is a good writer. And the beginning of the book, set in Wisconsin, did trick me into thinking this book would be a grand old time. However she made a woman who could have been a fabulous, glamorous independent dame into...more
bookczuk
My father was a child of the great movie studios. At the ripe old age of 4 or 5 he made the transition from Vaudeville to Fox Studio, and had several silent films under his belt as "Little Eli." He also was in a precursor to the Little Rascals, called the Sunshine Kids. One made it; one didn't. He used to talk about Jackie Coogan as his big rival. We have posters and pictures, and at least a copy of one film he was in. As a child, it fueled my imagination to think I could have been the daughter...more
Annabel Smith
It didn't knock my socks off. The story felt a little predictable, especially the first half of the book which chronicles the title character's rise to stardom - I felt like things were being described to me which I had already seen for myself (i.e. cliches). Some of the characters felt quite one-dimensional (her first husband, for example, felt like a vehicle to progress the action in a certain direction).

Later on, when life gets tough for Laura, I found it more interesting but even then I wasn...more
Lauren
It wasn’t until after I finished this book that I realized the title might have two meanings: the obvious one (that it relates to a film star’s life) and the thematic one (that this is a novel as told by a series of snapshots of the titular character’s life). Now, I might be completely wrong about the dual meaning (I haven’t seen the latter referenced in any press on the book, although I haven’t looked that hard), but the dual meaning makes me like the novel slightly better so I’m sticking with...more
Caroline
I wanted to like this book so much more than I did.

As a huge fan of movies from the 30s-40s, I began this book with quite a bit of knowledge about the studio system and the time period itself, so I was hoping this book would be a fictional treat to satiate my love of the "Hollywood golden age."
Not quite.

For a book that has a premise of taking place in said era, most of it does not. The plot largely consists of Laura's fade-out, her fizzle into obscurity. I found that I really didn't buy it when...more
christa
Say we were all sitting around a table right now. A big bowl of tortilla chips, a rainbow array of San Pellegrino flavors at the ready. We’d just chipped the Yahtzee cup from overuse. We all took turns sighing dramatically until I suggested a way to kill time:

“I have an idea. What if we all tried to imagine the life of a young girl from the Midwest who makes for California and is built into a good old fashioned Hollywood starlet?”

We would, undoubtedly, create something that sounded a lot like...more
Jody
I very rarely abandon books part way through. I'm eternally optimistic it will get better, even if it starts off slow. I did that for about half of Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, but now I'm done. The writing is sophomorically passive (and as a sophomoric, passive writer myself, I know whereof I speak). It's "First she did this, then she did that, and when he said this, she felt this way about it" with some flowery description thrown in every so often from the very first page. The characters a...more
Crystal Starr Light
Elsa Emerson is a young girl living in Wisconsin, with parents who run a theater, when her older sister, Hildy, dies tragically. When Elsa grows up, she married Gordon Pitts, a young actor, and heads out to Hollywood to make her debut. There, she becomes Laura Lamont, finds love, and learns to deal with the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future.

NOTE: I received this through the Amazon Vine Program.

There is nothing more glittery than the Golden Years of Hollywood, which is what...more
Clare
It feels like I've read this book before... Even though I haven't. This book read like a Danielle Steel novel - beautiful young thing with a tragic childhood event comes to Hollywood, finds great love, loses great love, overcomes tragedy.

This book spends only a brief time on the transformation of Elsa Emerson into Laura Lamont, and instead focuses (disproportionally in my mind) on Laura's life after she is out of the Hollywood business. Laura is widowed and her husband's death leaves a gaping f...more
Terri
Wheee! This is my first Goodreads "First Reads" giveaway win!

CAUTION: The review below contains some mild spoilers.

August 12, 2012
Though I'm not quite halfway through the book, I have much to say, so I'll start my comments here. This is hard for me, because I really want to like this book, and I feel that Emma Straub is an author I want to encourage, but I have some issues with the novel so far.

For me, the book is a little slow to get going. I would have started the book with the second chapte...more
Laura
The old days of the studio system will perplex many readers: how could anyone want to be a star badly enough to allow a stranger to change your name... you hair color... your marital status... your sexual orientation... your accent... your talent? This book goes some of the way towards explaining that.

Laura was born Elsa, a Wisconsin girl of strong Norwegian stock. Her father runs a summer stock theatre, and she and her sisters Hildy and Josephine help out with the cooking, cleaning and other re...more
Stuart Smith
I picked up this book because the title struck me as a line from one of those great campy songs. Unfortunately, that is where my love affair with the novel stopped. It never quite became what I wanted it to be. The characters were trite and the story line was rushed and more often than not it was forced into being a story I've heard before. It was clear that the author has a great fascination and appreciation for the Golden Age of screen, and it is for that reason that it may have suited her bet...more
Sarah-Jane
From a young age. Elsa Emerson dreamt of making it big in Hollywood. Growing up in Door County, Wisconsin, the only stage Elsa has ever graced is her father's roadside theatre.
Finding who she thinks is a kindred spirit in fellow actor Gordon, they marry and make their way to Hollywood to live their dreams. But Elsa soon realises that making it in Hollywood isn't as easy as she thought. While Gordon's profile is rising, Elsa's seems to be dimming. Luckily for her, aged seventeen, she is spotted...more
Mimi
This story felt incomplete. Laura's rise to fame is sketchy, and her time at the top is sketchier still--her life before and after is more the book's focus (the title misleads!). I was expecting at least some dishy on-set stuff and glamour, but mostly Laura's life felt like an empty room with a wind blowing through it. She reminded me of Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser's indifferent actress. She didn't have the same chronic dissatisfaction, just a muted demeanor, combined with a feeling like, fo...more
Jenn Ravey
From thepickygirl.com:

Elsa Emerson grows up walking the boards at her family's playhouse in Door County, Wisconsin in the 20s. Her childhood is full of costumes, actors and actresses running through dappled sunlight, and nights under the stars watching magic on stage until her older sister gets involved with one of the actors and has her heart broken. Devastated, Hildy kills herself, and the playhouse and Elsa's life change forever. Determined to recapture some of the pleasure of those heady nig...more
Betty
From a summer playhouse theatre on a Wisconsin farm to an award-winning star, this novel is an intoxicating blend of the siren's song of the stage and the dreams of a little girl. Encompassing the life of Elsa Emerson over a period of close to fifty years beginning in 1929, this piece is less to do with star-struck wannabees and drug-addled has-beens but more to do with love of family and love of acting as Elsa becomes Laura Lamont. Several tragedies play out that propel Laura to become what she...more
Cheryl A
This debut novel had such a promising premise, but didn't quite live up to expectations. Beginning in Door County, Wisconsin, the novel tells the story of Elsa Emerson, the youngest of three daughters. Her parents own the Cherry County Playhouse and Elsa enjoys appearing onstage. After a family tragedy, Elsa manages to marry one of the young actors who is going to Hollywood, where they both plan on being stars.

At a wrap party, pregnant Elsa catches the attention of the producer Irving Green, who...more
Brie
This is one of those reads that just sped by as I was reading it. It wasn't an earth shakingly good book but it was bad at all. It kept my attention with the story of the rise and fall of a Hollywood actress and how she found herself in the process of having all this happen to her.

Laura seemed like a real person, traumatized by the death of her sister and propelled by her family's reaction to it to leave the Midwest and head to Hollywood. Once in Hollywood she gets caught up in the studio system...more
Diana
When I was a about 11, I discovered The Bookateria, a used paperback bookstore with good prices in Ocean City,NJ, and I spent a few years tearing through Sidney Sheldon, Jacqueline Susann, and Danielle Steel books, among others. This book reminds me of Sidney Sheldon's rags-to-very-glamorous-riches stories, but with better writing. The nostalgic Sidney-Sheldon-ness of this book can be the only explanation for why I finished it. The writing really wasn't that good. There's not a very fully realiz...more
Jeannine
This is just not a good year for reading for me.

Saw this book hyped on a blog I read. Apparently the New York Times Magazine did an article about this author and this book. In the article she described the spark for the idea of the book came from the life of classic movie star Jennifer Jones. Classic movies being a particular passion of mine, and Jennifer Jones being a particular favorite of mine, I was immediately intrigued.

The author said she went her own way with the story, so it isn't REALL...more
Linda LaRoche
Emma Straub sets the stage in Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures with the opening chapter about Elsa's youth. Her parents run a summer stock theater in Door County, Wis., and shortly after the novel opens in 1929, 9-year-old Elsa gets her first part and her first taste of applause, "the most beautiful song she had ever heard." The next day, she finds her 19-year-old sister hanging from a beam in the bedroom. Beautiful, high-strung Hildy's suicide gives Elsa a load of guilt she carries with her when...more
Telaina
I would give this about 3.5 stars actually. I'm taking a star and a half off because Laura was such a simplistic character with no inner life. She had no idea about people's motivations, or her own... which I guess might be realistic of a young woman in Hollywood, but I found harder to believe as the book progressed and she aged. Her love was simple. Her grief was simple. She didn't have the depth or human complexity to carry a novel that would grip you or change your life. She did have enough h...more
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Emma Straub is from New York City. Her first novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, will be published by Riverhead Books in September 2012. Her debut story collection Other People We Married, arrived in February 2012, also published by Riverhead Books. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published by Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Time, Slate, Co...more
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“She wanted the world to stop and take notice before hobbling forward, forever changed. The problem was that no one seemed to be changed but her.” 3 likes
“... She might have thought that it was the case, that all things worked out in the end, and that the world was a benevolent place, but she knew better now, and had to fake it.” 3 likes
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